2 History Of Refrigeration – Development Of Refrigerants And Compressors
1 Version 1 ME, IIT Kharagpur

iii.3. safety. The theoretical thermodynamic efficiency of a vapour compression system depends mainly on the operating temperatures. However.1. At present the industry is dominated by the vapour compression refrigeration systems. Compressor development (Section 2.1) Synthetic fluorocarbon based refrigerants (Section 2.2.3. Refrigerant development (Section 2. iii.3. The other popular type of refrigeration system. and relatively less number of problems exist in these systems as far as the refrigerants are concerned.3. as these are the most commonly used systems. 2 Version 1 ME. Early refrigerants (Section 2. vii. State the importance of refrigerant selection List various refrigerants used before the invention of CFCs List various CFC refrigerants and their impact on refrigeration State the environmental issues related to the use of CFCs State the refrigerant development after Montreal protocol List important compressor types List important landmarks in the development of compressors 2.3) At the end of the lesson the student should be able to: i.The objectives of the present lesson are to introduce the student to the history of refrigeration in terms of: 1. and also refrigerants and compressors play a critical role here. IIT Kharagpur . even though the vapour absorption systems have also been developed commercially.2) Scroll compressors (Section 2.2) Screw compressors (Section 2. namely the vapour absorption type has seen fewer changes in terms of refrigerant development.3): i. The emphasis here is mainly on vapour compression refrigeration systems. initial and operating costs.2): i. ii. This lesson presents a brief history of refrigerants and compressors. reliability.3. iv.3. iv. The success of vapour compression refrigeration systems owes a lot to the development of suitable refrigerants and compressors. Introduction: The development of refrigeration and air conditioning industry depended to a large extent on the development of refrigerants to suit various applications and the development of various system components.2) Centrifugal compressors (Section 2. ii. vi. and serviceability etc. ii. v.1) Rotary vane and rolling piston compressors (Section 2. depend very much on the type of refrigerant and compressor selected for a given application. important practical issues such as the system design. Low-speed steam engine driven compressors (Section 2.3) 2.2.1) High-speed electric motor driven compressors (Section 2.2.2) Non-ozone depleting refrigerants (Section 2. vi. iii. v. size.

He described a practical system that uses ethyl ether as the refrigerant. William Cullen is also the first man to have scientifically observed the production of low temperatures by evaporation of ethyl ether in 1748.2. However. It is believed that as early as 4th Century AD people in India were using mixtures of salts (sodium nitrate. normally by refrigerants we mean the working fluids that undergo condensation and evaporation as in compression and absorption systems. Production of ice by nocturnal cooling is also well known. sodium chloride etc) and water to produce temperatures as low as –20oC. albeit not in a closed system.2. the development of refrigerants started with the search for suitable. Perkins used sulphuric (ethyl) ether obtained from India rubber as refrigerant. Historically the development of these refrigerants can be divided into three distinct phases. iii.C. they have to be essentially volatile. thereby producing cold water. Early commercial refrigerating machines developed by James Harrison (1816-1893) also used ethyl ether as refrigerant. Alexander Twining (1801-1884) also developed refrigerating machines using ethyl ether. In closed cycle vapour compression. As already mentioned the credit for building the first vapour compression refrigeration system goes to Jakob Perkins (1766-1849). Hence. Oliver Evans (1755-1819) proposed the use of a volatile fluid in a closed cycle to produce ice from water. air cycle refrigeration systems the refrigerant is a working fluid that undergoes cyclic changes. Refrigerants prior to the development of CFCs The synthetic fluorocarbon (FC) based refrigerants Refrigerants in the aftermath of stratospheric ozone layer depletion 2. absorption systems. the use of “punkahs” for body cooling in hot summer is very well known in countries like India. Production of cold by evaporation of water dates back to 3000 B. Since these substances have to evaporate and condense at required temperatures (which may broadly lie in the range of –100oC to +100oC) at reasonable pressures. Under this general definition. Refrigerant development – a brief history In general a refrigerant may be defined as “any body or substance that acts as a cooling medium by extracting heat from another body or substance”. IIT Kharagpur . e. volatile substances. However. ice.g. Archaeological findings show pictures of Egyptian slaves waving fans in front of earthenware jars to accelerate the evaporation of water from the porous surfaces of the pots.1. The history that we are talking about essentially refers to these substances. many bodies or substances may be called as refrigerants. Of course. After these developments. cold air etc. these natural refrigeration systems working with water have many limitations and hence were confined to a small number of applications. People also had some knowledge of producing sub-zero temperatures by the use of “refrigerant mixtures”.2. even though they were used for a longer time in tropical countries such as India. Water was the first refrigerant to be used in a continuous refrigeration system by William Cullen (1710-1790) in 1755. namely: i. Ether machines were gradually replaced by ammonia and carbon dioxide based machines. Refrigerants prior to the development of CFCs Water is one of the earliest substances to be used as a refrigerant. in breweries etc. ii. In a thermoelectric system the current carrying electrons may be treated as a refrigerant. cold water. 3 Version 1 ME. ethyl ether was used as refrigerant for several years for ice making.

0oC). as it is also toxic and inflammable.S. However. Operation of a system in vacuum may lead to the danger of outside air leaking into the system resulting in the formation of a potentially explosive mixture. toxicity and flammability problems ethyl ether was replaced by other refrigerants. ammonia has become one of the most important refrigerants to be developed. One of the landmark events in the history of refrigerants is the introduction of ammonia. this indicates that in order to obtain low temperatures.7oC) and very high operating pressures. In 1874. i. however.Ethyl ether appeared to be a good refrigerant in the beginning. who introduced these compressors in Munich in 1876. which is highly corrosive. This is the reason behind the longer use of ether in tropical countries with high ambient temperatures. Though these are considered to be some of its disadvantages. Ethyl ether has a normal boiling point (NBP) of 34.5oC. the evaporator pressure must be lower than one atmosphere. hence. ammonia has stood the test of time and the onslaught of CFCs due to its excellent properties.C. Linde is credited with perfecting the ammonia refrigeration technology and owing to his pioneering efforts. It was also used for refrigeration applications on land. operation in vacuum. It is ironic to note that ever since the problem of ozone layer depletion was found. However. In addition it is not only non-flammable. Lowe (1832-1913) introduced carbon dioxide compressor. In addition. carbon dioxide is steadily making a comeback by replacing the synthetic CFCs/HCFCs/HFCs etc.e. the operating pressures are much higher than atmospheric. Carbon dioxide was used successfully for about sixty years however. Charles Tellier (1828-1913) introduced dimethyl ether (NBP = 23. Ammonia has excellent thermodynamic and thermophysical properties. as it was easier to handle it since it exists as a liquid at ordinary temperatures and atmospheric pressure. but actually acts as a flame extinguisher. Sulphur dioxide was an important refrigerant and was widely used in small refrigeration systems such as domestic refrigerators due to its small refrigerating effect. or for a given pressure the condenser can be operated at higher condensing temperatures. However. In 1866. IIT Kharagpur . Eventually due to the high NBP. it enjoyed commercial success only in 1880s due largely to the efforts of German scientists Franz Windhausen (1829-1904) and Carl von Linde (1842-1934). the credit for successfully commercializing ammonia systems goes to Carl von Linde (18421934) of Germany.3oC. it is not compatible with some of the common materials of construction such as copper. Raoul Pictet (1846-1929) introduced sulphur dioxide (NBP= 10. in the presence of water vapour it produces sulphuric acid. On the other hand a relatively high normal boiling point indicates lower pressures in the condenser. The problem of corrosion was overcome by an airtight sealed compressor (both motor and compressor are mounted in the same outer 4 Version 1 ME. Carbon dioxide has excellent thermodynamic and thermophysical properties.. Since it is nonflammable and non-toxic it found wide applications principally for marine refrigeration. this refrigerant did not become popular. At present ammonia is used in large refrigeration systems (both vapour compression and vapour absorption) and also in small absorption refrigerators (triple fluid vapour absorption). However. However. The American David Boyle (1837-1891) was granted the first patent for ammonia compressor in 1872. It is easily available and inexpensive. it was completely replaced by CFCs. He made the first single acting vertical compressor in 1873.6oC) in 1864. the American T. Ammonia has a NBP of 33. ammonia is toxic and has a strong smell and slight flammability. it has a low critical temperature (31. Sulphur dioxide has the advantage of being an auto-lubricant.

Midgley was already famous for the invention of tetra ethyl lead.8oC. is obtained by replacing the four atoms of hydrogen in methane (CH4) by two atoms of chlorine and two atoms of fluorine. and is one of the most famous and popular synthetic refrigerants. 2. Ohio. Midgley along with his associates Albert L. They then eliminated those elements resulting in unstable and toxic gases as well as the inert gases. high operating pressures etc. nitrogen. Hence it was felt that “refrigeration industry needs a new refrigerant if they expect to get anywhere”. McNary at the Frigidaire Laboratories (Dayton. air conditioners. Freon-12 with a chemical formula CCl2F2. However. based on their very low boiling points. studies are being carried out on refrigerants containing iodine in addition to some of the Midgley elements). propane. in 1928.casing). water coolers etc for almost sixty years. oxygen. Midgley and his colleagues then made three interesting observations: i. Freon-11 (CCl3F) used in large centrifugal air conditioning systems was introduced in 1932. Flammability decreases from left to right for the eight elements Toxicity generally decreases from the heavy elements at the bottom to the lighter elements at the top Every known refrigerant at that time was made from the combination of those eight “Midgley” elements. The task of finding a “safe” refrigerant was taken up by the American Thomas Midgley. ii. an important anti-knock agent for petrol engines. flammability are influenced by the composition. sulphur dioxide was replaced by CFCs.. From the periodic table they quickly eliminated all those substances yielding insufficient volatility. As a result large-scale commercialization of refrigeration systems was hampered. which are obtained by partial replacement of hydrogen atoms in hydrocarbons by fluorine and chlorine. iii. after about sixty years of use in appliances such as domestic refrigerators. This is followed by Freon-22 (CHClF2) and a whole series of synthetic refrigerants to suit a wide variety of applications. with fluorine at the intersection. IIT Kharagpur . methylene chloride. Jr. methyl and ethyl amines. Based on their study. The first commercial refrigerant to come out of Midgley’s study is Freon-12 in 1931. other fluids such as methyl chloride. It was exclusively used in small domestic refrigerators. sulphur. hydrogen. ethyl alcohol. ethyl chloride. USA) began a systematic study of the periodic table. Freon-12 has a normal boiling point of 29. but arrived at the same conclusions (almost all the currently used refrigerants are made up of Midgley elements. They have shown how fluorination and chlorination of hydrocarbons can be varied to obtain desired boiling points (volatility) and also how properties such as toxicity. were tried but discarded due to one reason or other. Midgely and his colleagues have developed a whole range of new refrigerants. fluorine. isobutane. flammability. The synthetic CFCs/HCFCs: Almost all the refrigerants used in the early stages of refrigeration suffered from one problem or other. carbon tetra chloride. Most of these problems were linked to safety issues such as toxicity. gasoline etc. 5 Version 1 ME.2. They were finally left with eight elements: carbon. A look at the refrigerants discussed above shows that all of them are made up of seven out of the eight elements identified by Midgley (fluorine was not used till then). chlorine and bromine.2. Other researchers have repeated Midgley’s search with more modern search methods and databases. In addition to the above. These eight elements clustered at an intersecting row and column of the periodic table. only exception is Iodine. Henne and Robert R.

In addition to the ozone layer depletion. Rowland and Molina in their now famous theory argued that the highly stable chlorofluorocarbons cause the depletion of stratospheric ozone layer. No clear pure fluid alternative has been found as yet for the other popular refrigerant HCFC-22. a vigorous promotion of these refrigerants as “wonder gases” and “ideal refrigerants” saw rapid growth of Freons and equally rapid exit of conventional refrigerants such as carbon dioxide. 22) denotes the chemical composition.g. Table 2. it has become essential to work out a numbering system for refrigerants. The increased use of ammonia and use of other refrigeration cycles such as air cycle refrigeration systems and absorption systems also come under the second route. The numbering of refrigerants was done based on certain guidelines. ODS (CFCs and others) in a phase-wise manner under Montreal Protocol.Due to the emergence of a large number of refrigerants in addition to the existence of the older refrigerants. The first one is to look for zero ODP synthetic refrigerants and the second one is to look for “natural” substances. 11. Only ammonia among the older refrigerants survived the Freon magic. Subsequently almost all countries of the world have agreed to the plan of CFC phase-out. Introduction of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and their mixtures belong to the first route. Also. water and various hydrocarbons and their mixtures belong to the second route. Out of this requirement two alternatives have emerged.3. This once again brought the scientists back to the search for “safe” refrigerants. Freons are highly stable compounds. and material incompatibility were eliminated completely. R-718 denotes water etc.g. Refrigerant mixtures begin with the number 4 (zeotropic) or 5 (azeotropic). 12. toxicity etc.. The “safety” now refers to not only the immediate personal safety issues such as flammability. The number of all inorganic refrigerants begins with ‘7’ followed by their molecular weight. Refrigerants in the aftermath of Ozone Layer Depletion: The most important requirement for refrigerants in the aftermath of ozone layer depletion is that it should be a non-Ozone Depleting Substance (non-ODS). However several mixtures consisting of synthetic and natural refrigerants are being used and suggested for future use. For all synthetic refrigerants the number (e. R-502 etc. In addition. by cleverly manipulating the composition a whole range of refrigerants best suited for a particular application could be obtained. In view of the seriousness of the problem on global scale. The introduction of CFCs and related compounds has revolutionized the field of refrigeration and air conditioning. several countries have agreed to ban the harmful Ozone Depleting Substances. IIT Kharagpur . Thus all refrigerants were indicated with ‘R’ followed by a unique number (thus Freon-12 is changed to R12 etc).2. R-500. the CFCs and related substances were also found to contribute significantly to the problem of “global warming”. flammability. The Freons enjoyed complete domination for about fifty years.. but also the long-term environmental issues such as ozone layer depletion and global warming. sulphur dioxide etc. until the Ozone Layer Depletion issue was raised by Rowland and Molina in 1974. Most of the problems associated with early refrigerants such as toxicity. while the reintroduction of carbon dioxide (in a supercritical cycle).1 shows the list of refrigerants being replaced and their alternatives. Subsequent studies and observations confirmed Rowland and Molina theory on stratospheric ozone depletion by chlorine containing CFCs. e. Mention must be made here about the other 6 Version 1 ME. Thus R-717 denotes ammonia (ammonia is inorganic and its molecular weight is 17). In addition to all this. 2. Both these routes have found their proponents and opponents. HFC134a (synthetic substance) and hydrocarbons (natural substances) have emerged as alternatives to Freon-12.

the efficiency issue has become important in the design of new refrigeration systems. global warming. In general the non-ODS synthetic refrigerants such as HFC-134a have high global warming potential (GWP). IIT Kharagpur .1. hence they face an uncertain future. Candidate refrigerants for replacing CFCs 7 Version 1 ME. Though the issues of ozone layer depletion and global warming has led to several problems. they have also had beneficial effects of making people realize the importance of environmental friendliness of technologies.environmental problem. Table 2. Since the global warming impact of a refrigerant also depends on the energy efficiency of the system using the refrigerant (indirect effect). It is expected that with the greater awareness more responsible designs will emerge which will ultimately benefit the whole mankind.

fluorine etc. c) Q. Need for synthetic refrigerants was felt. b) Q. ammonia c) Modifying inorganic compounds by adding carbon. fluorine and chlorine d) Mixing various hydrocarbons Ans. b) Q. The synthetic CFC based refrigerants were developed by: a) Partial replacement of hydrogen atoms in hydrocarbons by chlorine. a) Q. IIT Kharagpur . as the available natural refrigerants: a) Were not environment friendly b) Suffered from several perceived safety issues c) Were expensive d) Were inefficient Ans. a) 8 Version 1 ME. because: a) It is non-toxic and non-flammable b) It has small refrigeration effect c) It is expensive d) It was easily available Ans. The synthetic refrigerants were extremely popular as they are: a) Environment friendly b) Mostly non-toxic and non-flammable c) Chemically stable d) Inexpensive Ans. In the olden days Carbon dioxide was commonly used in marine applications as: a) It has low critical temperature b) Its operating pressures are high c) It is non-toxic and non-flammable d) It is odorless Ans. CFC based refrigerants are being replaced as they are found to: a) Cause ozone layer depletion b) Consume more energy c) React with several materials of construction d) Expensive Ans. d) Q. because: a) It exists as liquid at ambient conditions b) It is safe c) It is inexpensive d) All of the above Ans. which is still used widely. Ammonia is one of the oldest refrigerants. a) Q. Sulphur dioxide was mainly used in small refrigeration systems. Ethyl ether was the first refrigerant to be used commercially. because: a) It offers excellent performance b) It is a natural refrigerant c) It is inexpensive d) All of the above Ans. b) Modifying natural refrigerants such as carbon dioxide. b) and c) Q.Q.

Their first compressors were vertical and the later were horizontal.2. In 1859. and began to use them in the manufacture of ice from 1868. The compressor developed by Pictet was horizontal and was not lubricated as sulphur dioxide acts 9 Version 1 ME. Similar to his earlier methyl ether compressor (1875) a bath of liquid mercury was used to make the compressor gas-tight.1 shows the schematic of Linde’s horizontal.3. Several manufacturers in other countries adopted this design and manufactured several of these compressors. double acting compressor. Raoul Pictet invented the sulphur dioxide compressor in 1874. The British firm J&E Hall began the commercial production of carbon dioxide compressors in 1887.N. Soon the carbon dioxide systems replaced air cycle refrigeration systems in ships. The machine was initially built in Geneva. The firm of Siebe brothers of England went on perfecting the design of the early compressors. Reciprocating compressors: The earliest compressor used by Jakob Perkins is a hand-operated compressor. Compressor development – a brief history Compressor may be called as a heart of any vapour compression system.S. This ammonia compressor was installed in a brewery in 1877 and worked there till 1908. the firm P. These compressors were initially installed in a chocolate factory near Paris and in a brewery in USA in 1868.C. T. and was a subject of many patents. then in Paris and afterwards in some other countries. very much like a hand operated pump used for pumping water. USA began the production of ammonia compressors on a large scale from 1880. They started manufacturing two-stage carbon dioxide compressors since 1889. Figure 2. Ferdinand Carre of France took out several patents on diaphragm compressors. 2. A significant development took place in 1876 by the introduction of a twin cylinder vertical compressor working with ammonia by Carl von Linde. Lowe (1832-1913) started making carbon dioxide compressors in 1865. This design became very successful. However.3. Three other machines with 8 to 10 hp were in use in England in 1858. Linde improved the compressor design by introducing a horizontal. Harrison also used a hand-operated ether compressor in 1850. double acting cylinder with a stuffing box made from two packings separated by glycerine (glycerine was later replaced by mineral oil). Charles Tellier used a horizontal single cylinder methyl ether compressor in 1863. The rapid development of refrigeration systems is made possible due to the developments in compressor technologies. A small half horsepower (hp) compressor was used as early as 1857 to produce 8 kg of ice per hour. In 1876 the ship “Le Frigorifique” was equipped with three of Tellier’s methyl ether compressors and successfully transported chilled meat from Rouen in France to Buenos Ayres in Argentina (a distance of 12000 km). This trend continued upto the Second World War. Russel of Australia undertook the manufacture of Harrison’s machines. IIT Kharagpur . Several firms started manufacturing these compressors on a large scale. valves etc.1. but later used steam engine driven compressors in commercial machines. From 1863 to 1870. In 1877. the first compressors to be made with two vertical cylinders. the credit for perfecting the design of carbon dioxide compressor goes to Franz Windhausen of Germany in 1886.

the mean speed was 40 rpm in 1890. typically around 500 mm with stroke lengths of the order of 1200 mm. compressors of very large capacities (upto 7 MW cooling capacity) were successfully built and operated by this time.5 % of the swept volume. which were later changed to ring-plate type.Fig. the first two-stage carbon dioxide compressor was made in 1889 by J&E Hall of England. which has a supplementary suction orifice opened during compression so that refrigerant can be taken in at two different pressures. 10 Version 1 ME. Escher Wyss of USA started making these compressors from 1913 onwards. In 1878. often less than 0. Both vertical and horizontal arrangements were used. The French company Crespin & Marteau started manufacturing methyl chloride compressors from 1884. hence the clearances were small. As mentioned before. The rotational speeds were low (~ 50 rpm). Due to many similarities. Stetefeld in 1904 concluded that there was no marked difference in the performance of ammonia. However. The term “high speed” was introduced in 1915 for compressors with speeds greater than 150 rpm. crank and flywheel were in the open. practically all the compressors in USA. in addition to these two. The cylinder diameters were very large by the present day standards.2. especially in small systems. Sulzer Company developed the first two-stage ammonia compressor in 1889. A stuffing box arrangement with oil in the gap was used to reduce refrigerant leakage. Initially poppet valves were used. double acting compressor as an auto-lubricant. Germany. IIT Kharagpur . Slowly. In France. the former being popular in Europe while the later was popular in USA. right upto the Second World War. In 1905 the American engineer G.1. methyl chloride system was introduced by Vincent in France. 80 in 1910. for example for a 300 kW cooling capacity system. connecting rod. However. 60 in 1900. At the beginning of 20th century. sulphur dioxide and methyl chloride were also used. As mentioned. none of the compressors of this period exceeded speeds of 500 rpm. Compressor capacity comparison tests have been conducted on different types of compressors as early as 1887 in Munich. Like early steam engines. the speed of compressors have been increased. the early compressors resembled steam engines in many ways. Schematic of Linde’s horizontal. 150 to 160 in 1915. and went upto 220 in 1916. York Company of USA made a two-stage ammonia compressor in 1892. they were double acting (compression takes place on both sides of the piston). Great Britain and Germany used either ammonia or carbon dioxide. The crosshead. the sulphur dioxide system was an instant success and was used for almost sixty years. This continued upto the first world war. carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide compressors. Voorhees introduced a dual effect compressor. Due to generous valve areas and low speed the early compressors were able to compress mixture of vapour as well as liquid.T.

Between 1914 and 1920. 71% in 1919. for example. A hermetic or sealed compressor was the outcome of this. the earliest compressors were hand operated. which was much easier to seal than the reciprocating one. an American compressor (Airtemp) comprised two groups of 7 cylinders arranged radially at both ends of 1750 rpm electric motor. the heavy bell valves were replaced by much lighter.arrangement. of cylinders 2 cylinders 4 cylinders 16 cylinders in W-arrangement Speed (rpm) Cooling capacity per unit weight 70 6. About 1920. By 1910. the electric motor was considered to be the first choice for refrigerant compressors. 11 Version 1 ME. Later they were driven by steam engines. Since it is difficult to provide continuous maintenance on small systems (e. As mentioned. In the open type compressors the compressor and motor are mounted separately. The horizontal. domestic refrigerators). The driving shaft of the motor and the crankshaft of the compressor are connected either by a belt drive or a gear drive. systems working with open type compressors require periodic servicing and maintenance. Diesel and petrol engine driven compressors were developed much later. A rotating crankshaft enclosed in a crankcase drove the two opposed horizontal cylinders. In USA. Many studies were also conducted on compressor valves as early as 1900. serious thought was given to tackle this problem.5 kcal/h per kg 400 42 kcal/h per kg 1750 200 kcal/h per kg All the compressors developed in the early stages are of “open” type. even though the rotating mechanical seals developed reduced the leakage rate considerably. In 1937. attention was focused on reducing the clearance space between the piston and cylinder head (clearance space) in order to increase the capacity of the compressors. the design being adopted from automobile engine design. the design of stuffing box for large compressors was almost perfected. However. a York 300 000 kcal/h compressor had the following characteristics: Year 1910 1940 1975 Refrigerant NH3 NH3 R22 No. This trend continued and slowly the steam engine driven compressors have become almost obsolete. flat valves. double acting compressors were gradually replaced by multi-cylinder. These changes resulted in a reduction of size and weight of compressor. 43% in 1922 and 32% in 1924. This fact gave rise to the idea of sealed or hermetic compressor (both compressor and motor are mounted in the same enclosure). In 1897 the Belgian manufacturer Bruno Lebrun introduced a rotary stuffing box. Attention was also focused on the design of stuffing box and sealing between piston and cylinder to reduce refrigerant leakage. 90% of the motive power was provided by the steam engine in 1914. the steam engines gradually gave way to electric motors.and W. Since leakage cannot be eliminated completely. However. vertical. for smaller compressors the energy loss due to friction at the stuffing box was quiet high. By about 1900. since the early electric motors with brushes and commutator and primitive insulation delayed the realization of hermetic compressors upto the end of First World War. high-speed compressors (with speeds greater than 500 rpm) began to appear in the market. uni-flow compressors in V. With the open type compressors there is always a possibility of refrigerant leakage from an open type compressor.g. However.About 1890. IIT Kharagpur .

IIT Kharagpur . In 1926. Hermetic compressors soon became extremely popular. Cut view of a hermetic compressor Other types of compressors: 2.2. of USA introduced the domestic refrigerator working with a hermetic compressor. General Electric Co. However.2 shows cut view of a hermetic compressor. carbon dioxide etc. They are available for a wide variety of refrigerants and applications. the design of hermetic compressors was perfected. With the capacitor starting of the electric motor becoming common in 1930s. in which the alternating movement of a diaphragm produced the suction and compression effects. the capacity of hermetic compressors was increased. Several types of rotary air compressors existed before the First World War.2. a practical 12 Version 1 ME. which reduced of the compressor unit significantly.2. rotary vane compressor using methyl chloride was installed on an American ship “Carnegie”.An Australian Douglas Henry Stokes made the first sealed or hermetic compressor in 1918. Initially 4-pole motors were used. Gradually. due to higher efficiency and serviceability. After 1940 the 4-pole motors were replaced by 2-pole motors.3. The currently available hermetic compressors are compact and extremely reliable. However. At present. they became popular with the introduction of Freons in 1930s.Positive displacement type (other than reciprocating): In 1919. Now-a days hermetic compressors are available for refrigerating capacities starting from a few Watts to kilowatts. Fig. but later were used in small to medium capacity systems working with ammonia. Soon the 2-pole hermetic refrigerant compressor became universal. The first positive displacement. the open type compressors are used in medium to large capacity systems. and the rapid development of small hermetic compressors has paved the way for taking the refrigeration systems to the households. Initially these compressors were used for liquefying chlorine. the French engineer Henri Corblin (1867-1947) patented a diaphragm compressor. whereas the hermetic compressors are exclusively used in small capacity systems on a mass production. and this idea has soon been extended to refrigerants. Figure 2.

The screw compressors entered into refrigeration market in 1958. These compressors were also made by Lebrun. These compressors offer the advantages of compactness. In 1931. Sulzer. A model of the rolling piston type compressor was made in 1919 in France. The low pressure refrigerant from the evaporator enters into the compressor from the port on the right hand side. Escher Wyss.Stamp made an ethyl chloride compressor of 1000 kcal/h capacity. IIT Kharagpur . low noise etc. Rolaff’s design was first tried on a sulphur dioxide based domestic refrigerator. Guttner’s compressors were used with ammonia and methyl chloride in large commercial installations. Belgium in 1924 and also by Grasso (Netherlands). This compressor was improved significantly by W. Fig.3 shows the schematic of a rolling piston compressor. by A. At present.3. positive displacement rotary compressors based on sliding vane and rolling piston types are used in small to medium capacity applications all over the world. even though the basic idea goes back to 1934. Rolaff of USA in 1920 and M. F. also of Switzerland rotary sliding vane compressor “Rotasco” in 1936. it gets compressed due to the rotation of the rolling piston and leaves the compressor from the discharge valve on the left hand side. In USA. these compressors require very close manufacturing tolerances as compared to reciprocating compressors. Lysholm of Sweden. rolling piston type compressors were made in USA by Frigidaire for refrigerant R114. Sunbeam Electric made small sulphur dioxide based rotary sliding vane compressors of 150 kcal/h capacity. The screw compressors are of twin-screw 13 Version 1 ME.S. rotary compressor The screw compressor is another important type of positive displacement compressor.positive displacement. Vilter of USA made large rotary compressors (200000 kcal/h) first for ammonia and then for R12. Schematic of a rolling piston type.2. rotary vane compressor could only be developed in 1920. Sulzer later extended this design to ammonia for large capacities (“Frigocentrale”). However. In 1922.F. rotating at 1750 rpm for domestic refrigerators. Switzerland made “Frigorotor” of 1000 to 10000 kcal/h using methyl chloride. efficiency. by General Electric for ethyl formate and by Bosch in Germany for sulphur dioxide. Guttner of Germany in 1922. Hermetic. Figure 2. In Germany.

Cut view of a semi-hermetic. This means that for one revolution of the male rotor. Due to the many favorable performance characteristics. Fig.2.4 shows the photograph of a cut.6 shows the photograph of a Copeland scroll compressor. until it reaches maximum pressure at the center of the chamber. semi-hermetic. This orbital movement draws gas into the compression chamber and moves it through successively smaller “pockets” formed by the scroll’s rotation. Netherlands introduced single screw refrigerant compressors in 1974. several pockets are compressed simultaneously. For the female rotor to complete one cycle. It was almost 65 years later that the concept was re-invented by a refrigeration industry keen to exploit the potentials 14 Version 1 ME. The screw compressor (both single and twin screw) became popular since 1960 and its design has almost been perfected. at that time the technology simply didn't exist to accurately manufacture the scrolls. IIT Kharagpur .4. During each orbit. so operation is virtually continuous. Although the theory for the scroll compressor indicated a machine potentially capable of reasonably good efficiencies.5 shows gas flow pattern in a scroll compressor and Fig. Grasso. There. It uses the compression action provided by two intermeshing scrolls . single-screw compressor.2. The twin-screw compressor uses a pair of intermeshing rotors instead of a piston to produce compression. Figure 2. Presently it is made for medium to large capacity range for ammonia and fluorocarbon based refrigerants. it’s released through a discharge port in the fixed scroll. the male rotor will have to rotate 11/2 times.one fixed and the other orbiting. screw compressors are taking larger and larger share of refrigerant compressor market. The single screw type compressor was first made for air in 1967. Figure 2. One rotor is called the male rotor and it will typically have four bulbous lobes. The rotors comprise of helical lobes fixed to a shaft. the female rotor will only turn through 240 deg. It competes with the reciprocating compressors at the lower capacity range and on the higher capacity side it competes with the centrifugal compressor. The principle of the scroll compressor was developed during the early 1900's and was patented for the first time in 1905. single-screw compressor The scroll compressor is one of the more recent but important types of positive displacement compressors. The other rotor is the female rotor and this has valleys machined into it that match the curvature of the male lobes. Typically the female rotor will have six valleys.(two helical rotors) type or a single-screw (single rotor) type.

scroll compressors are very popular due to the high efficiency. Gas flow in a scroll compressor Version 1 ME. Photograph of a cut scroll compressor (Copeland) 15 Fig. Today.of scroll technology. IIT Kharagpur . Fig.2. Scroll compressors have been developed for operating temperatures in the range of 45°C to +5°C suitable for cold storage and air conditioning applications.5. Hitachi in Japan introduced the scroll type of compressors for refrigerants in 1980s. However.2. which results from higher compression achieved at a lower rate of leakage. They are available in cooling capacities upto 50 kW. They are quiet in operation and compact. Copeland in USA. This scroll has also been successfully applied throughout the world in many freezer applications.6. the manufacturing of scroll compressors is very complicated due to the extremely close tolerances to be maintained for proper operation of the compressor.

The motivation for developing centrifugal compressors originated from the fact that the reciprocating compressors were slow and bulky. propane and other refrigerants for use in low temperature applications. In 1899. In Switzerland. semi-hermetic centrifugal compressor. Carrier. Centrifugal compressors developed before 1940. Brown Boveri Co. The development of these compressors is largely due to the efforts of Auguste Rateau of France from 1890. New York. in which the pressure rise takes place due to the exchange of angular momentum between the rotating blades and the vapour trapped in between the blades. hermetic centrifugal compressor developed for medium to large capacity applications. Elgenfeld proposed the use of centrifugal compressors for refrigeration at the International Congress of Refrigeration. had 5 to 6 stages. two Germans H. Carrier wanted to develop a more compact system working with non-flammable.7 Cut-view of a two-stage. In 1926 he used methyl chloride. After 1960. Refrigerant R11 was the refrigerant chosen by Carrier for his centrifugal compressor based air conditioning systems in 1933.2. Fig. Till 1950. Later they also developed large centrifugal compressors working with Freons. Efforts have been made to use similar compressors for refrigeration. especially for large capacity systems. However. Later his company developed centrifugal compressors working with R12. developed ammonia based centrifugal compressors as early as 1926. Rateau developed single impeller (rotor) and later multi-impeller fans. non-toxic and odorless refrigerant. Subsequently. while they had 2 to 3 stages between 1940 to 1960. In 1919. 3600 rpm machines were replaced by compact 10000 to 12000 rpm compressors. compact. IIT Kharagpur . semi-hermetic centrifugal compressor. subsequently centrifugal compressors have become industry standard for large refrigeration and air conditioning applications all over the world. he tried a centrifugal compressor with dichloroethylene (C2H2Cl2) and then dichloromethane (CCl2H2). Figure 2. In 1910. centrifugal compressors with a single stage were also developed. Lorenz and E. However. Centrifugal were initially used for compressing air. Vienna.3. Dynamic type: Centrifugal compressors (also known as turbocompressors) belong to the class of dynamic type of compressors. and in 1927 he had nearly 50 compressors working with dichloroethylene. it was Willis H. the centrifugal compressors were used mainly in USA for air conditioning applications. The centrifugal compressors really took-off with the introduction of Freons in 1930s. 2. 16 Version 1 ME.7 shows cut-view of a two-stage. Large centrifugal compressors of cooling capacities in the range of 200000 kcal/h to 2500000 kcal/h were used in places such as World Trade Centre.3. who has really laid the foundation of centrifugal compressors for air conditioning applications in 1911. The large diameter.

a). b) Q. reciprocating type b) Horizontally oriented c) Low speed machines d) Steam engine driven Ans. The speed of the compressors was increased gradually with a view to: a) Develop compact compressors b) Reduce weight of compressors c) Handle refrigerant vapour only d) All of the above Ans. a) and b) Q. a) 17 Version 1 ME. Centrifugal compressors are used in: a) Large refrigerant capacity systems b) In small refrigerant capacity systems c) Domestic refrigeration and air conditioning d) All of the above Ans. Hermetic compressors were developed to: a) Improve energy efficiency b) Overcome refrigerant leakage problems c) Improve serviceability d) Reduce weight Ans. At present the reciprocating type compressors are most common as they are: a) Rugged b) Comparatively easy to manufacture c) Offer higher energy efficiency d) All of the above Ans. Which of the following are positive displacement type compressors: a) Reciprocating compressors b) Scroll compressors c) Screw compressors d) Centrifugal compressors Ans.Q. b) Q. b) Q. IIT Kharagpur . The early refrigerant compressor design resembled: a) Automobile engines b) Steam engines c) Water pumps d) None of the above Ans. b) and c) Q. The early compressors were able to handle liquid and vapour mixtures as they were: a) Double acting. a) and b) Q. Open type compressors are used in: a) Domestic refrigeration and air conditioning b) Large industrial and commercial refrigeration systems c) Only CFC based refrigeration systems d) Only in natural refrigerant based systems Ans. c) Q.

4. Freons are also responsible for the monopoly of few companies in refrigeration technology. limited operating temperature range etc. Hermetic compressors were developed to take care of the problem of refrigerant leakage associated with the open type of compressors. air conditioners etc. trochoidal compressors. unlike synthetic refrigerants the natural refrigerants suffer from some specific problems related to toxicity. Almost all the compressors described so far have reached a high level of perfection. IIT Kharagpur . How do the natural refrigerants compare with the synthetic refrigerants? Ans. development is a never-ending process. they offer lower energy efficiency and compressor and motor cooling is difficult. However. non-flammable and chemically stable nature of Freons. Of course. as they are not completely serviceable. Q. and efforts are going on to develop more efficient compact. However. which is one of the main requirement of small systems such as domestic refrigerators. reliable and quiet compressors. Q. A brief history of refrigeration and air conditioning from the refrigerant and compressor development points of view has been discussed in the present lesson. and cannot be monopolized by few companies in the developed world. starting from small hermetic reciprocating and rotary compressors for domestic refrigerators to very large screw and centrifugal compressors for huge industrial and commercial refrigeration and air conditioning applications.: Freons have contributed significantly to the widespread use of refrigeration and air condition systems as the systems using these refrigerants were thought to be safe. acoustic compressors are being introduced in refrigeration and air conditioning applications. Natural refrigerants generally offer good thermodynamic and thermophysical properties leading to energy efficient systems. flammability. The rapid growth of domestic refrigerators and air conditioners all over the world can be attributed at least partly to the non-toxic. Conclusions: The compressor technology has undergone significant developments in the last hundred years. The actual characteristics and performance aspects of some important refrigerants and compressors will be discussed in subsequent lessons. the hermetic compressor based systems were made relatively maintenance free. They are also relatively inexpensive. State briefly the impact of Freons (CFCs) on refrigeration and air conditioning Ans. Q. Today different compressors are available for different applications. the biggest impact of Freons could be their contribution to global environmental hazards such as ozone layer depletion and global warming. Also some new types such as linear compressors. What are the motivations for developing hermetic compressors? Why they are not used for large capacity systems? Ans. reliable and rugged. By eliminating refrigerant leakage. Almost all the natural refrigerants are non-ozone depleting substances and they also have comparatively low global warming potential.2. Hermetic compressors are not used in large capacity systems. Of late. 18 Version 1 ME.

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